cover image Perfect Lives

Perfect Lives

Polly Samson, Virago (Trafalgar Square, dist.), $24.95 (223p) ISBN 978-1-86049-992-0

The perfect lives of Samson's characters living in an English seaside town tarnish under closer scrutiny. In her finely-wrought collection of 11 closely-linked stories, Samson (Lying in Bed) plumbs the depths of the human psyche, revealing insecurities, infidelities, and an enduring tenacious spirit. A thoughtless comment at a 40th birthday party and a broken egg in the letterbox on Father's Day shatter a seemingly idyllic marriage. Seeing a girl he likes with a classmate prior to his major recital so demoralized a gifted young pianist that he has turned his significant talents to piano tuning. When years later, the lives of these people briefly intersect, one wonders who has earned the richest life. Samson also examines a little boy's first bittersweet whispers of love for the baby sitter he believes to be a trapeze artist, and a woman's all-consuming love affair with her camera; it causes her to forget her husband's birthday, but also saves the day. Samson's deft touch balances pathos, love, and humor, providing an absorbing look into very real contemporary lives. (Mar.)